By Jane Oppenlander & Eva Williford (Clarkson University)
A graduate course in managerial epidemiology was redesigned to incorporate a group data collection project using “The Islands,” a virtual population for teaching statistics and epidemiology. Each group develops a research question, performs a literature review, designs their study, collects data from some of the Islands’ inhabitants, analyzes the data, and reports their findings. The project lasts for six weeks. Each week student learning is assessed with assignments and activities that reflect what would be encountered in a professional environment. For example, problem formulation is evaluated through a project proposal. In the week covering public health ethics, each group submits a study to The Islands Institutional Review Board (the instructors) for approval. The assessments reinforce the weekly topic and the instructor-provided feedback helps the students to improve their projects. The summative assessment is a class presentation at the “The Islands Conference” where each group presents their study and findings. The course is offered in both a classroom and asynchronous online format with class sizes of 5-30 students and implements Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education principles. Successes and lessons learned from the first deployment of this group project format will be shared.